Most know 1043 Virginia Ave. as the Murphy Arts Center, named for the G.C. Murphy department store which operated there from 1951 to 1998. The Murphy’s name and façade harken back to the days of five and dime stores and soda fountains. But G.C. Murphy was not the first occupant of the address – that distinction belongs to the first theater in Fountain Square, the Granada.
The Granada Theatre, operated by Universal Pictures as part of a nationwide chain of 400 theatres, opened April 8, 1928. It was Indianapolis’ second Universal theater; the Rivoli Theatre, formerly located at the corner of 10th Street and Dearborn Ave. on the eastside opened September 15, 1927. The Granada Theatre opened less than one month before the neighborhood jewel, the Fountain Square Theater, opened on May 6, 1928.
Universal Pictures spent $750,000 (which would be approximately $12.8 million today) to build the theater, which featured “harmonious color effects, soft carpet and lighting fixtures of a special design” and “[b]eautiful and elaborate draperies adorning the panels of the side walls blending perfectly with the tasty color scheme.” The Granada Theater also boasted a cooling system “which has a capacity of making 120 tons of ice daily, thereby keeping the theater at an even, cool temperature on the hottest days that the summer may furnish.”
The Granada could house 1,417 patrons and likely featured Universal Pictures classics King of Jazz, Frankenstein, Flash Gordon, Woody Woodpecker, and several Abbott and Costello films. When it opened, admission was $.25 for adults and $.10 for children. In 1932, the Granada was the first theater in Indianapolis to screen a foreign film with sound, an Italian film called Tierra Madre. The Granada came to its finale in 1951. While the Granada was operational, the G.C. Murphy department store existed in the connected building; it then expanded into the empty Granada space in 1951. In more recent years, the building has been divided into a smaller portions – the upper floors are used primarily for artists studios and offices, with the lower floor occupied by the Heartland Film Festival offices and Fountain Square notables Hi-Fi, Red Lion, and La Margarita.
Written by: Jessica Barnett
W.H. Bass Photo Company Collection – Indiana Historical Society